The woman who became known on the internet as the “accidental Thanksgiving grandma” — when she mistakenly texted a teen she’d never met to invite him to her holiday dinner — is now recovering from the coronavirus as she mourns the loss of her husband.
In 2016, Wanda Dench, from Mesa, Arizona, invited then 17-year-old Jamal Hinton to Thanksgiving when a misfired text went to him instead of one of her grandchildren.
But even after realizing the gaffe, Wanda, along with husband Lonnie, extended their home to Hinton and his girlfriend, Mikaela, that year — and every year since.
The two became as close as family in the years since she sent the serendipitous text, and Hinton shared each milestone of their bond with his more than 51,000 followers.
Last year, their annual tradition included Hinton’s family, too, for the first time. This time, his and Mikaela’s party did all the cooking for the Dench family. Wanda, meanwhile, had a surprise for Hinton — a scrapbook of memories they share together, that all started with a viral tweet.
But today, Wanda, afflicted with COVID-19, is in the hospital. Her partner, Lonnie, has tragically already succumbed to the virus.
On April 1, Hinton tweeted to his 50,000 followers that his adoptive grandparents were both fighting for their lives against the coronavirus.
“I am so sad to announce that Wanda and Lonnie both have COVID-19 and that Lonnie is currently in the hospital fighting both COVID and Pneumonia please send words of love and encouragement their way,” he wrote, alongside photos of himself and Mikaela with the Denches.
Last night, Hinton returned with a tragic update on the husband and wife.
“As some of you may have already found out tonight Lonnie did not make it… he passed away Sunday morning,” he tweeted late Wednesday night. “But Wanda told me all the love and support he was receiving put a huge smile on his face so I thank every single one of you guys for that!”
He later replied to his thread, “Also for those asking, Wanda is not sick,” indicating that Wanda is regaining health.
Social media responded in kind — clearly devastated to learn the unduly suffering of the internet’s favorite big-hearted grandma and grandpa. Apparently, Hinton and Wanda aren’t the only ones feeling the loss.
“The holidays are REALLY hard for me & their story brought a lot of joy to me. My heart hurts for them so much,” wrote one such follower.
“Thank you for sharing this piece of your life and family with us for so long. Peace be unto you and them. Amen,” tweeted another.